grilled halloumi cheese: this one’s BETTER than the sandwich ::::
Eat works with a couple, M&M, in his lab, who also appreciate a good beer and good food. My open schedule as of late afforded me to meet the three for lunch a couple of weeks ago, a weekday lunch, out, in a restaurant, without the kids. First, it felt a little weird. Weird that I wasn’t having sticky rice pelted at me, various liquids being spilled across the tabletop, Grub screeching “ALL DONE!” when the rest of us were barely starting our meal, and watching Peach meticulously pick out every piece of green from her meal (this includes chopped herbs). It was four adults, sitting in a darkly-lit restaurant, enjoying midday cocktails, and conversation about food and travel.
M&M spoke of a recent trip to Philadelphia and some of the amazing food they sampled. One dish was the grilled Cypriot halloumi with apricots and mint. I’ve had little interaction with halloumi cheese, other cheese somehow bustling into my direct vision and pushing halloumi to the periphery. Saganaki, halloumi’s Greek cousin, was first presented to me with the “Opa!” attached in Chicago Greek Town, just steps away from my medical school and apartment. I loved the flaming cheese, but hated the portion size. This paltry plate of fire, brought into the room with such pomp and circumstance seemed to not live up to its name, flame quickly dying, cheese forlorn on the plate, like a sapped, but caramelized, showgirl. My second halloumi-like experience was at the Green City Market in Chicago, our go-to farmers’ market near our home. Never would I see grillable cheese the same after meeting The Cheese Guy there. Rather the Really Grumpy Cheese Guy. The Cheese Nazi. The Cheese Guy with Some Cheese Stuck Up His …. Nose. Not only was he not polite to his customers, but he was also not polite to his fellow cheese-sellers, fruit vendors, and bakers. He gained quite a reputation, one that involved most people to fear him, wondering if perhaps he forgot to take some important medication in the morning.
M&M have changed that, with their animated description and my rediscovery of the cheese, as it stared at me from its refrigerator case at the local European-style market. I had to buy it. And eat it. No shame in that I ate 1/2 pound of cheese in one sitting. And sooooo not grumpy about it.
- cypriot halloumi cheese (I bought 250 grams or 8.8. ounces)
- 1½ cups diced apricots (about 6 small apricots or 254 grams)*
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon lime zest
- small bunch of fresh mint, chiffonaded or gently torn
- First make the simple syrup: mix the sugar and water together in small saucepan. Over moderate-high heat, heat to dissolve the sugar.
- Add the chopped apricots. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and mashing some of the apricots with a fork, until thickened. Set aside. You may cool to room temperature or cool in the fridge.
- While the apricot loveliness is cooling, prepare the cheese. Slice halloumi into 8 pieces. If you are serving as appetizer bites, cut smaller or use a cookie cutter for interesting shapes.
- Heat a grill (or use a non-stick skillet without added oil) to high and cook for 1 minute on each side. This goes fast so watch very carefully. My photos show non-stick skillet cooking on high heat for LESS than a minute. Remove from pan to cool slightly.
- Prepare your plates: If serving as a meal (even inadvertently, like I did, rather than an appetizer), place 3-4 slices on each plate, top with apricot compote, and sprinkle with mint. My photo shows sparse mint. I added more to eat the dish.